Economic Development and Government

Arena South transition prompts business parking questions

Parking Services debuts Mobile GR priority work plan, and first up is city spaces parking near arena.

March 11, 2016
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Van Andel Arena
Parking near Van Andel Arena will be one of the first issues tackled by the Parking Commission as part of the Mobile GR Priority Plan. Courtesy Experience Grand Rapids

The Arena South transition and employer outreach strategies are among the more than 20 items highlighted for discussion this year for the Parking Commission.

During the March 10 Parking Commission meeting, Mobile GR and Parking Manager Josh Naramore outlined a work plan that was developed as a guide for the 2016 calendar year to begin implementing some of the Mobile GR Priority Plan elements.

The Mobile GR Priority Work Plan was created after identifying the best initiatives to begin working on for the next eight months, after the Parking Commission formally adopted the Mobile GR Priority Plan in February. Each item is scheduled as a discussion item for one meeting, and then will be revisited during the following monthly meeting as a potential actionable item.

The first items scheduled for discussion April 14 include: parking rate increases for on- and off-street parking; potential changes to the DASH service; exploring a Silver Line pilot program; the parking management toolbox for neighborhood commercial centers developed in partnership with Nelson\Nygaard Consulting as part of the Vital Streets Oversight Committee; and presenting on the Arena South parking transition.

Naramore said during the March 10 Parking Commission meeting the Downtown Development Authority will make a decision regarding Area 4 and Area 5 parking during its April 13 meeting and would like to discuss the ramifications of “whatever ends up happening.”

“We are working with some current transitions with the current cardholders,” said Naramore. “I will report back on some of the lessons learned through that process at a minimum, and then talk about how we move forward as we do this in other areas throughout the system.”

The Arena South transition will be revisited during the June 9 meeting when the commission discusses employer outreach strategies. Naramore indicated staff will work with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and some of the employers to put together a case study on the employer outreach that has been done.

He said having a better understanding of the needs of employers from a parking perspective and targeting initiatives to specific needs will improve parking services across the system.

“One thing, as part of the Arena South, I have learned is that different employers have different needs, and we have been treating them all the same,” said Naramore. “Some have different employees who are more amenable to riding transit or using different facilities; some require in-and-out privileges and need to be in and out all day long.”

Mike McCarthy, founder and president of DDM Marketing and Communications, said he believes there needs to be more engagement with the businesses that are going to be severely impacted by the parking changes in the Arena South area.

“We have 50 employees and work with people around the world. We don’t do an 8-to-5 operation,” said McCarthy. “It is very difficult for us to envision how we are going to have people park on the outskirts of downtown and get safely to and from their vehicle, and the city is not really taking it into account.”

DDM Marking and Communication is located at 100 Grandville Ave. SW and has been in the downtown area for nearly 25 years. McCarthy said the order in which the city is prioritizing some of the initiatives could be disadvantageous to some of the companies that operate in the area.

“In this time of an employment environment — as competitive as it is, I can’t expect our employees to have to fend for themselves for parking, which is one of the options the city is suggesting, nor can I see myself putting them in a situation that I don’t think is safe,” said McCarthy.

“Companies like ours have been downtown for 25 years and have been loyal and helped build this area of downtown. … It is frustrating from a small business standpoint,” he added.

Some of the other Mobile GR Priority Plan elements scheduled for discussion by the Parking Commission this year include: performance measures and target finalization in May; launching a parking meter occupancy and time-of-day study for the summer; revisiting the Mobile GR website and transition plan in June as the department shifts from Parking Services to Mobile GR; and looking at the Bikeshare and Greenride carpooling programs in July.

Items planned for later this year include discussing a remote parking strategic plan and transportation demand management ordinance in September; and looking at on-street rate setting methodology, a commuter choice marketing and communication plan, and wayfinding and signage in October.

By November, the department plans to evaluate the parking rate increases and adjustments and discuss the Mobile GR budget, as well as make changes identified from performance measure outcomes.

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